Idle asks the pertinent question du jour: where are all the [Tory] activists?
Where are all the people who want to get involved in their communities, to help people they agree with to become councillors, perhaps to become councillors themselves, to help the people they agree with to get into Parliament, to help people they agree with to get into office, to help the people they agree with to win by-elections, etc. etc.?
I don’t have an answer. All I can say is this. I grew up with Tories all around me. My mum was on the council for sixteen years. She famously had to escape from hospital after having my younger brother chopped out of her so the administration didn’t fall. My metropolitan intellectual dad stood as a paper candidate in a Midlands industrial constituency in the one that Heath lost (I think). All my parents’ friends were met delivering leaflets, discussing the important questions of their time and in raucous street-fights in marginal constituencies (OK maybe not the last one).
And yet the organisations that they so loved barely exist as far as I can tell. I went to a Bow Group meeting once a few years ago and took an instant dislike to everyone else there. It was as if everyone there had heard of the organisation and thought they should turn up. When I moved to my current part of town I joined the local constituency association, went to see a speaker and joined in the drinks after. I found everyone a bit smug. I recently re-joined in the hope that I could fine common cause and maybe even get to know some nice people in my area but something holds me back from actually going to one of their policy forums.
It might just be my defective anti-social personality, of course. But then I look around at what my friends get involved with. Lots are involved in community activities but none are involved in party politics. Why is that?
Maybe people don’t want to spend the time? In the 60s and 70s apparently it was perfectly normal for professionals to get sloshed at lunchtime and roll away from the office betimes. None of my contemporaries would get away with that!
Or are we fighting different, smaller battles? I am on my estate committee and I go to residents’ meetings and make a fuss at them. Others fight non-party fights about human rights issues. Maybe these micro-skirmishes have replaced the broader questions about our national future?
Maybe we’ve reached a point in the political cycle where most people agree on the biggest questions so it doesn’t matter which flavour of the consensus gets into power?
But that doesn’t ring true to me. We don’t have the Russians and the IRA trying to beat us into submission but we still have a good old argument about whether more or less government is the best way to run the country. The European question prompts angry superiority from all seventy four sides of the argument. We have always had campaigning lawyers. People have always had something to moan about to the council.
Has my generation lost its sense of idealism? Did we grow up in a world where career trumps all? Or most depressingly of all, do we collectively think that there’s no point in trying?